I’ve so far resisted posting anything from YouTube.com here at the Turntable, partially because I’m uncomfortable swiping external content and calling it a day’s work. Beyond that, though, YouTube embodies both the blessing and the curse of the Internet’s democratizing effect: that it gives everyone a voice. (Also, like democracy, the Internet is still largely reserved for above-lower-class citizens of developed nations, but that’s a whole other ball o’ wax.) The Internet has made good on its promise as an infinite receptacle of information, accessible to all. This is a very good thing. But what about the fact that it’s a forum for not only astute and credible observers, but also ignorant louts and downright morons? This is, at the very least, a lamentable side-effect – what Jon Stweart might call “the upset stomach and diarrhea of democracy.”
And not everyone’s so pleased about the ease of access to information. In a recent interview with the Village Voice, Hospital Records mayor domo, Dominick Fernow, explained his contempt for the Internet thusly:
It takes the sweat out of the underground. It just makes everything so fuckin’ easy. There’s no passion, no pursuit. You might as well be checking your fuckin’ account balance.
For those not old enough to still have boxes of VHS & cassette tapes collecting dust, this could just be sour grapes. But Fernow has a valid point. If music were coffee, the Internet would be Starbucks: sure, it’s ubiquitous, efficient, and the selection is endless… but who friggin’ cares? It’s the difference between complacently picking up a Grande Gut-rot-accino, and finding a superb local café tucked down an alleyway. Which will give you a greater sense of aesthetic satisfaction and personal intimacy?
Here’s where I become the very thing I’ve been railing against… I submit for your scrutiny the 18-year-old video for the anthemic “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth:
And therein we see the old means of cultural dissemination at work. In the four minutes spent listening to the song, there are more names dropped and influences winkingly acknowledged than in a week’s worth of Pitchfork. Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, Jad Fair, Patti Smith, the Fall, the Birthday Party, Einsturzende Neubauten, Black Flag, Tom Waits, Daniel Johnston – the video is a veritable Cliff Notes for ‘80s underground rock. Yet this isn’t calculated image construction. This is Sonic Youth establishing their lineage while smacking the future in the face with history—a Rosetta Stone of punk rock.
Et voila! What Sonic Youth could only throw into the ether of cable music television with vague hope of being absorbed, I’ve now served to you with the speed & plain understanding of a fast food fry cook. Sure, it’s convenient. But do you care?